cinema - C inema Of all t he art forms o f t he twentieth...

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Cinema Of all the art forms of the twentieth century, none is quite so startlingly reflective of its age as cinema. Painting, architecture, sculpture, and music all descended from the past, paid it tribute, and reinvented it. Film is the only art form that was born and raised along with the twentieth century, the only art form that belongs exclusively to the twentieth century. Its aesthetic and lit- erary debts are massive. But the very presence of the cinematic image, the creation it inspires and the mythology it weaves have had perhaps the deepest influence of any art form on the identity of our time. I have always thought thar some great writers could have been born in another age without losing their eternal qualities. Marcel Proust comes to mind as one example. The novelist from Paris would have been no less significant a writer had he been born into the seventeenth or eighteenth century. And Lac- los, the master of the eighteenth century, would have been a grand twentieth-century writer. On the other hand, there are writers without whom we could never understand "our time," writers who are indispensable to the age in which they lived.
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Car/vs They are universal and will always have readers, but they bear the mark of their era like an indelible seal. Dickens and Balzac can only belong to the nineteenth century. And Kafka is the essential writer of the twentieth century. Without The Metamorphosis, The 'Trial, The Castle, Amaika, we could never understand our era. Film, because of its mherent novelty, has had to undergo a constant process of transformation. Because of this, yesterday's innovation grows old in an astonishingly short period of time. Luis Bufiuel often complained of film's dependence on the tech- nical. The sheer speed of progress renders the majority of older films obsolete. To conquer the instantaneous nature of time with lasting images is the filmmaker's great challenge, and as I write about Bufiuel, I begin to evoke images from Un Chien andalou and CAge d'or, which live on even though their techniques have long since been improved. I mention two silent films because there is such a profound abyss between silent and spoken films. The development of cine- matography without words achieved heights of beauty and elo- quence that the spoken film has never been able to match. It makes one tend to agree with Montaigne: "Tandis que tu as garde silence, W as paru quelque grande chose." A great deal of comic cin- ema-Chaplin, Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy-relies on the purely visual to execute its gags properly. Sound ruined, cheapened, or transformed them. It ruined Keaton and Lloyd. It
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cinema - C inema Of all t he art forms o f t he twentieth...

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